El Centro Chicano
Responding to a request from the Chicano/Latino students on campus, USC established El Centro Chicano in 1972. Today, El Centro works toward enhancing the college experience of Chicana/o and Latina/o students at USC. Its mission is to foster a community of critically thinking, socially conscious Chicana/o and Latina/o leaders, providing personal, social and academic support through graduation and beyond.
El Centro provides culturally sensitive programs that foster and promote the academic and personal success of Chicana/o and Latina/o students. In addition, it strives to educate the campus about Chicana/o and Latina/o issues and the ethnic diversity represented within the community (i.e., Central and South America, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico).
El Centro also offers student advocacy, personal support, assistance for Chicana/o and Latina/o student groups and transitional/beyond USC programming. El Centro programs and services also consider gender, class, religion/spirituality, bi/monolingual, continuing generations, sexual orientation, disabilities and biracial/ethnic identities, among other factors.
El Centro Chicano offers a variety of services that include workshops on academic skills and interaction with faculty and academic affairs staff. The following are some of the academic support programs offered.
Latino Honor Society
The Latino Honor Society (LHS) is a program monitored by El Centro Chicano that aims to honor the academic and leadership contributions of USC Latino undergraduate students. To recognize students for their academic achievements, LHS and El Centro Chicano co-host the annual Sophomore Recognition ceremony in the fall and the LHS Induction ceremony at the end of the year. Every spring, students are notified if they are eligible to apply for LHS membership. See here for qualifications and application information.
Finals Study Breaks
El Centro Chicano hosts a study break every semester for students during finals week. In an effort to create a stress-free zone and support students during finals, El Centro provides students with a free meal and a very supportive environment created by a handful of faculty, staff and alumni. This event brings the semester to a close and allows students to say goodbye before they leave for break or as they venture off for the summer.
New Student Symposium
Summer orientation can be overwhelming and packed with valuable information. Therefore, El Centro Chicano has designed an additional program at the beginning of the school year with a cultural twist for first-year students to get to know more about the Chicana/o and Latina/o community at USC, as well as to connect to campus resources. The workshops are designed by students, alumni and faculty/staff members. The program welcomes students and their families to the Trojan Familia and helps them transition successfully to university life. This program is done in collaboration with the Center for Black and Cultural Student Affairs, and both offices also host a mixer for Black and Latino graduate students at the beginning of the year to help them transition to USC.
Class Reunions (One Stop Shop)
El Centro Chicano understands that Latina/o students’ needs depend on many different components. This program focuses on students’ class status (i.e., freshman through senior, spring admit, transfer, etc.). In the fall semester, each class is offered a One Stop Shop to address academic and personal needs. Each class panel consists of departments/offices, faculty, alumni and upperclass students. This program also encourages networking and helps establish a supportive class identity. In the spring semester, we host one all inclusive class reunion, the Latino Trojan Family Reunion: a networking night for undergraduates, graduates and alumni.
The student life at USC is rich with student organizations and programs. El Centro offers several programs that allow all students to feel comfortable with the USC environment. Services include a commuter lounge, facilities for student clubs and organizations and the Latino Floor for freshmen living in university housing. Students registered with El Centro receive a free Latino Resource Handbook with an academic planner, an orientation guide to USC as well as weekly El Centro e-newsletters and daily Facebook alerts about campus activities, scholarship opportunities, internships and Chicano/Latino activities at USC and in the surrounding community. In addition, El Centro promotes social consciousness, identity exploration and cultural pride throughout the campus. Cultural awareness programs include L.A. Power Trips, the Black and Latino Overnight Experience, La Posada: Celebrating Latin American Holiday Traditions and Giving Back, the Latino Speaker Series and the Chicano/Latino Graduate Celebration, to name a few.
Latino Floor: La Luna y El Sol
Created in 1974-75, the Latino Floor residential program is an opportunity offered to first-year students who want to connect with students with similar interests and/or cultural backgrounds. The Latino Floor promotes a supportive atmosphere that eases the transition of freshmen into USC life and empowers them to become prominent campus leaders. The Latino Floor is open to all students interested in learning more about the Chicano/Latino culture. The floor provides community service opportunities plus cultural, academic and social activities. During the spring semester, Latino Floor residents participate in bimonthly tutoring programs for local children.
The Latino Floor houses 32 residents and one resident adviser. For more information, visit sait.usc.edu/elcentro/programs/latino-floor-el-sol-y-la-luna-special-interest-community.aspx.
Chicano/Latino Graduate Celebration
The Chicano/Latino Graduate Celebration has been a tradition at USC for more than 30 years. It is a festive event that takes place the night before the main commencement ceremony. The purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate students’ personal success and academic achievements in the spirit and traditions of Chicano/Latino culture. The bilingual celebration is dedicated to the families and friends of graduating students.
The ceremony is open to all graduating students and provides them with 20 seconds to publicly thank those who have helped them through their educational careers.
El Centro Chicano provides students and families the opportunity to work with the community in several ways. El Centro provides outreach to parents through the Latino Parent Association and to local community agencies and schools. Throughout the year, El Centro hosts visits from local elementary/middle/high school students, community colleges and college outreach programs. USC students serve on panels during these visits, encouraging younger students to pursue higher education. In addition, USC students are made aware of volunteer programs within the greater Los Angeles Chicano/Latino community.
Latino Parent Association
The Latino Parent Association (LPA) was founded in 1982 to help parents understand the issues that affect Chicano/Latino students and parents. Serving over 200 families, the LPA allows parents to plan and implement events. In addition, parents participate in monthly meetings to stay informed about the university and student life. Guest speakers also provide information about a variety of programs and services offered by USC and the surrounding community.